Sail On

How could you not be impressed? If you came upon Ryn Weaver, not knowing who she was or what to expect, you would be floored. As I was, when I saw her perform as an opening act for Billy Idol. She is just so fresh and compelling in her vocals and her personality, beautiful and great on stage, and once you’ve sat down to really listen, a good writer too. Obviously, in a fair world, she would be a huge star, but it’s not a fair world and the most interesting people are not always the most rewarded. According to her Instagram, Ryn’s biggest news is a rather drastic bleach job. Still awaiting new music though.

Runaway

“So much of my album has to do with running away and refusing to settle in one place. It’s about the good and the bad of going out on your own.” – Ryn Weaver

Clearly, running away has been a popular theme. It’s particularly poignant for young women who wish to escape from stifling home lives and see the expectations of their future as nothing but a burden. The option to run away and become a traveling musician isn’t exactly a new one; theater troupes and gypsy caravans have called out to the brave for centuries, and the performing arts have long been a designated haven for nonconformists. The idea of making a break for it is still a powerful one, even though we now enjoy a lot more personal freedom than ever before.

Promises

I think I featured this song a couple of years ago, when I first discovered Ryn Weaver. She hasn’t done anything since that time; she is apparently without a record label, despite the moderate success of her first album. Still, I advise everyone to continue patiently keeping an eye on her, because she is amazing. Besides her strength as a writer and performer, she is a very rare thing – a versatile vocalist who doesn’t rely on currently popular tics and mannerisms. We all know that every musical movement/generation has its own specific style, which usually stems from a whole lot of people trying to copy one original trailblazer, on to the point of cliche. Examples; 70’s hard rock singers yowling like Robert Plant, the entire 90’s mumbling like Kurt Cobain, post-Madonna pop stars who can’t actually sing but don’t mind taking their clothes off. Today, the trend seems to be singing at the top of your lungs, presumably the better to reach the back of the stadium. Katy Perry, Lady Gaga, Rihanna, Sia, Beyonce, plus a host of less popular names; everyone is belting it out like a Broadway diva. It’s effective but not given to nuance. It’s today’s vocal cliche. Ryn Weaver is a singer who could sing like that, because she has the lungs for it, but she doesn’t. Her vocal performances are all over the map, evoking dozens of  influences, sometimes all in the course of one song. It shows fantastic confidence for an artist fresh out of the nest, so to speak, and I truly hope she’s given the platform to develop and succeed.

Pierre

Last year, Ryn Weaver was on my list of favorite records, with points added for most interesting debut. Weaver is an incredibly promising artist. Her voice is amazing. She has the stage presence of a rock star. But her greatest strength is her eclecticism. She’s not about to be pigeonholed in any particular style; the songs on her album range from folky to hard rocking. Sometimes the same song goes from folky to hard rocking. Here, she strikes an artful balance of honky tonk and chamber pop. It’s an unexpected combination, and the mark of a thoroughly confident artist. Weaver is comfortable referencing a wide range of styles, both musically and vocally. Thanks to a background in both visual arts and theatre, she’s a complete package.

The Best of 2015

Part One. The Albums.

The less said about 2015 the better, and 2016 has already established itself as the worst year in all of recorded history. But at least we still have music.

  1. I Love You, Honeybear – Father John Misty

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Mark my words, Father John Misty is going to take his place as one of the most important living artists in the canon. In fact, on the strength of only two albums (at least under that name and persona), he kind of already is. I can’t think of a better songwriter, capable of the most intense romanticism and the darkest sarcasm. A great voice, a sexy look, a charismatic presence, a rock star who hits all the points.

Bored in the U.S.A.

Chateau Lobby #4 (In C for Two Virgins)

I Love You, Honeybear

 

2. What A Terrible World, What A Beautiful World – The Decemberists

What_A_Terrible_World,_What_A_Beautiful_World

The Decemberists’ hiatus didn’t last too long, thank goodness. The world needs their brand of hyper-literate musical anachronism. In a culture where erudition often seems to hold no value, it’s pleasing to see the erudite succeed outside the small circle of the NPR crowd. See, Americana can still be a relevant influence!

Make You Better

The Wrong Year

Carolina Low

 

3. Strangers to Ourselves – Modest Mouse

Strangers_to_Ourselves_cover

The hiatus of Modest Mouse was a long one, and hard to take. Promises of new material were made and rescinded. The words ‘long overdue’ were on everyone’s lips. When it finally came, it didn’t disappoint. Modest Mouse are up to their usual weirdness, mixing the catchy with the abrasive.

Lampshades on Fire

The Ground Walks, With Time in a Box

Coyotes

4. Sometimes I Sit and Think, and Sometimes I Just Sit – Courtney Barnett

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It’s been a couple years since songs from Courtney Barnett’s EP began getting play on indie radio, but this full length debut was most people’s first introduction to her music. Now the world is heralding the arrival of a very major talent. As the title of the records suggests, Barnett’s talent is spinning wordy, witty songs out of the mundane, all delivered in a heavily accented deadpan sing-speak reminiscent of Lou Reed, if he had been born a snarky Australian lesbian with bangs.

Pedestrian At Best

Dead Fox

Nobody Really Cares if You Don’t Go to the Party

5. How Big, How Blue, How Beautiful – Florence and the Machine

Florence_and_the_Machine_-_How_Big_How_Blue_How_Beautiful_(Official_Album_Cover)

The title of the album refers to the Pacific Ocean, but it could refer to Florence herself; a force of nature. She’s grown into a bona fide Major Artist since her debut, and it seems she’s still gaining momentum, if this third album is any sign. I’ve rarely seen anyone so commanding, and especially someone so young. As a performer, she was born to fill coliseums, yet despite its grandiosity her music retains intimacy.

What Kind of Man

Ship to Wreck

Queen of Peace

 

6. Dodge and Burn – The Dead Weather

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Not even entirely new material, but new to us, and that’s enough. The Dead Weather churned out more material than one record could hold when they were at their most active. This is the overflow, with some new jams thrown in. It certainly doesn’t feel like leftovers. Alison Mosshart remains a goddess of the highest caliber, a love child of the lizard king.

I Feel Love (Every Million Miles)

Be Still

Three Dollar Hat

 

7. I Thought the Future Would Be Cooler – Yacht

Hear-ITTFWBC-Cover

An unfairly under the radar release from socially conscious electro Utopians Yacht. Claire L. Evans is an electropop genius, from her pixie cyborg style to her witty take on the issues of modern life. This is music you can dance to and think about at the same time. And it’s not without the kind of romantic sentiment a classy lady can get behind, either. How Yacht isn’t basking in fame, I have no idea, but I love this record so much I actually paid for it. So.

I Though the Future Would Be Cooler

I Wanna Fuck You Till I’m Dead

War On Women

8. The Fool – Ryn Weaver

The_Fool_(Official_Album_Cover)_by_Ryn_Weaver

A debut from a new talent I hadn’t even heard of until recently. Ryn Weaver is a singer who broke into my consciousness as an opening act for Billy Idol. So right away you know that she rocks. She also has impressive songwriting ability, a varied palette of influences and a voice that that brings to mind everything from the tremolos of folk singers like Judy Collins, to the breathy sultriness of Lana Del Rey, to the open-throated high notes of Florence Welch herself.

OctaHate

Promises

Pierre

9. Vulnicura – Bjork

Björk_-_Vulnicura_(Official_Album_Cover)

Bjork had been lying low for a while, but now she returns to purge the experience of her separation from Matthew Barney. So, here’s Bjork’s take on the classic genre of Big Divorce Album. As expected it’s a soundscape of emotion, with cryptic lyrics and surreal atmosphere, and of course, support from friends like Antony Hegarty, always on hand to bring a touch of the otherworldly.

Black Lake

Lionsong

Mouth Mantra

10. Sound & Color – Alabama Shakes

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Here’s a band that went from near-unknown to everybody’s favorite in a blink of an eye. But you can’t say they don’t deserve it. If it seems like the throughline of rhythm and blues has gotten lost in the last two or three decades, well, it turns out it hasn’t. To call it ‘retro’ would be too obvious; it’s a reminder that roots music will never not be relevant.

Don’t Wanna Fight

Gimme All Your Love

Future People